Best After Effects Glow Plugins: Deep Glow vs Optical Glow

Glows have always been a popular topic in After Effects, and with the fairly recent release of Deep Glow by Plugin Everything and Optical Glow by Red Giant, the topic has gained a lot of attention. What are the differences between the glow plugins, and which one is better?

Inverse Square Falloff

The reason the default After Effects glow and many other glows look awful is because the glow falloff doesn’t fade out at a realistic rate. The falloffs tend to look linear, fuzzy, and may contain weird black halos with weird transfer mode blending. Both Deep Glow and Optical Glow uses inverse squared falloff to achieve realistic and natural results.

Deep Glow

Great glow plugin that cost half the price of Optical Glow. You have the basic settings that control amount and radius of the flow, colors, etc. The main difference between the two is that you get chromatic aberration, which really adds an extra level of detail to the glow. You also get blending mode options and more fine controls over the “quality”. If you want to custom colorize your glow, you can only tint the glow one color, which isn’t a huge drawback for me, but is less than what you get with Optical Glow.

Optical Glow

Optical Glow has many of the same basic features as Deep Glow like glow amount, radius, threshold, etc. The threshold tends to give me more predictable results without oversaturating the image, and you also get a “Vibrance” feature that allows you to boost the colors if you want to. You can also define a inner and outer tint color if you want to custom colorize the glow. You won’t get the option to fine tune the “Quality”, but there are 4 quality presets (Draft, Production, Best, Extreme) which are probably better for the average user.

Which One to Buy

Both glow plugins give you fantastic results and render in about the same amount of time. Both utilize the GPU, and I didn’t notice that one was faster than the other. If you’re only after the glow, then Deep Glow is your best bang for your buck because it’s only $50 and works extremely well. If you’re interested in or have the whole VFX Suite, Optical Glow will be your best bet. You just need one or the other.

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